Press release from Republican Indiana State Senator Jim Banks:
Banks’ proposal would make precinct committeemen lists public record
Columbia City senator wants more transparency in precinct committeemen process
(STATEHOUSE, December 29, 2010) – In northeast Indiana alone, they put two congressional candidates on the November ballot, selected a pair of new Indiana House members and one for the Indiana Senate.
And yet, in some cases it was difficult to find out exactly who these political officials – known as precinct committeemen – actually were. State Sen. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) believes it’s time for transparency in the precinct committeemen process.
Banks has filed legislation requiring the county chairmen of each major political party to submit the names and addresses of precinct committeemen and vice committeemen to the county election board each year by July 1.
“With as much power as precinct committeemen have in situations like we’ve seen this year, the public has a right to know who are making these key decisions,” Banks said. “Precinct committeemen are enormously powerful during a caucus. As a precinct committeeman myself I believe there is room here for more transparency to preserve this process.”
In 2010, precinct committeemen decided what Republican and Democrat would be on the November ballot to fill the unexpired term of U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, a race ultimately won by then State Sen. Marlin Stutzman (R-Howe). Precinct committeemen then selected Susan Glick (R-LaGrange) as Stutzman’s successor. They also filled Indiana House seats vacated by State Reps. Matt Bell (R-Avilla) and Randy Borror (R-Fort Wayne) with Kathy Heuer (R-Columbia City) and Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne), respectively.
Senate Bill 151 would also put the following safeguards in place where precinct committeemen are concerned:
- It would require the county chairman to update the precinct committeemen and vice committeeman information no later than seven days after a change occurs;
- It would make the information open for public inspection and copying in the same manner as other public records; and
- It would institute a fine of $50 per day for each day the information is late, up to a maximum $500 fine. Funds from these penalties would be deposited in the campaign finance enforcement account.
Precinct committeemen are elected every four years by neighborhood voters. According to the Indiana Secretary of State’s website, there are 5,206 precincts in Indiana. That means there are more than 10,000 precinct committeeman posts and an additional 10,000-plus vice-committeeman positions available, as each precinct – containing between 800 and 1200 voters – has Republican and Democrat committee representatives.
Banks has also filed a number of other bills relating to Indiana’s election laws:
- Senate Bill 136 would prohibit legislators from sending an official communication at the full or partial expense of the Indiana General Assembly within 90 days of an election when their name appears on the ballot;
- Senate Bill 150 would limit a state committee of a political party to purchasing ads only for members of its own party and prohibit purchase of ads designed to influence nomination or election of a candidate in a different political party. “In 2010, congressional Democrats sent out mailings supporting a Libertarian candidate to divert votes away from the Republican,” Banks said. “Democrats paid for mailings to Republications urging them to vote for the Libertarian candidate. Under my proposal, if you send out mailings to vote for a candidate not of your party, then you’ve committed voter fraud.”
- Senate Bill 149 would remove a provision prohibiting any Allen County Superior Court judge or candidate for judge from accepting more than $10,000 in contributions from all sources and repeal penalties for violating the provision.